Lieutenant Bradford T. Clark, of Hanover County (VA) Fire-EMS, was honored with the 2019 Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award at the FDIC International 2019 Opening Ceremony Day 1 on Wednesday, April 10, 2019, at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 3,000 attendees.
The Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award commemorates the life and career achievements of Deputy Chief Ray Downey, who lost his life while commanding rescue operations at the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001. Deputy Chief Downey was chief of rescue operations and a 39-year veteran of the Fire Department of New York. He was the most highly decorated firefighter in the history of FDNY. Deputy Chief Downey commanded rescue operations at many difficult and complex disasters, including the Oklahoma City Bombing, the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, and many natural disasters worldwide. Each year, the award is presented at FDIC International.
This year’s award was presented posthumously to Clark’s widow, Melanie Clark.
On October 11, 2018, Hanover Fire-EMS was managing heavy call volume because of the impacts of Tropical Storm Michael when Clark’s unit, Engine 6, was dispatched to an accident on the Interstate highway at 21:00. As the crew was dismounting the apparatus to size up the incident, Clark observed a tractor trailer speeding toward the unit as he rounded the front of the engine. Rather than use this moment to jump to safety, Clark yelled to warn his crew, allowing them a split-second notice to gain cover and brace for impact. One firefighter who was riding behind Clark was reaching back into the jump seat to retrieve a medical bag when he heard Clark’s warning. Sensing the impending impact, he dove headfirst back into the cab as the tractor trailer struck the rear of Engine 6. That firefighter emerged from the wreckage without significant injuries and was able to begin treatment of his fellow firefighters. The driver of Engine 6 and the other jump seat firefighter received significant life-threatening injuries as a result of the impact.
The impact of the tractor trailer drove the engine over the top of Clark, pinning him underneath the fire apparatus. Crews worked to free him and begin treatment, but despite their best efforts, Clark was pronounced dead at the scene.
Clark’s selfless actions resulted in the survival of the rest of his crew. Clark used his last second to warn his crew, which gave them just enough warning to survive. Clark’s actions exemplify the highest traditions and values of Chief Ray Downey and those firefighters who gave their lives on September 11, 2001.
FDIC Education Director Chief (Ret.) Bobby Halton, FDNY Battalion Chiefs Joe and Chuck Downey (Ray’s sons), Toby Biolchini from the Courage and Valor Foundation, Chief Ron Kanterman of the NFA Alumni Association, and Chief Ron Siarnicki of the
National Fallen Firefighters Foundation presented the award, which includes the Courage and Valor Medal and a check for $35,000.
Halton said: “Our world has been changed, improved by men and women such as the man we acknowledge here today. All true heroes had lifetimes of exemplary notice. However, they all had a choice to act at some point, a choice that would place them in harm’s way--
perhaps, as today, the ultimate sacrifice. But make no mistake about it, those choices,
those people have made the world a better place, have made us a better people.”
Chuck Downey added, “Our family truly appreciates the recognition this award represents by honoring our father. This ceremony has so much meaning to all those who dedicate their lives to the fire service. Our dad would be humbled and grateful to know how many lives have been touched by his actions and his life’s work. Our family and all those who worked with my father here at FDIC and the Clarion Fire Rescue Group know how deeply he would be honored by this award. Thank you to all those who work so hard to support our father’s legacy and to honor the American fire service.”
Donations to the Courage and Valor Foundation can be made at www.courageandvalor.org.